The four-toed hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris), or African pygmy hedgehog, is a small species of hedgehog. It is found throughout much of the south-Saharan African countries, from Senegal and Mauritania in the west, to Sudan in the east. It has been recorded as far south as Zambia. Populations tend to be scattered between suitable savannah or cropland habitats, avoiding forested areas. The species common name is derived from the number of toes found on their rear feet. Due to their extensive range and stable wild population, the species holds no particular conservation status.
Four-toed hedgehogs are oval bodied animals between 5.91 and 9.84 in (15 and 25cm) long and weigh between 12.35 and 24.70 oz (350 and 700 g). Females are typically larger than males. They have short legs, long noses, and small beady eyes. They can vary greatly in coloration, but typical wild specimens have brown or grey spines with white or cream colored tips. They have soft fur on their belly and their faces. Their faces usually exhibit a darker coloration, grey or black. The face could be the same color as their underside, which is typically white.
Four-toed hedgehogs are solitary, nocturnal animals. They are highly energetic. They sometimes cover miles of ground in a single night as they forage for insects, grubs, snails, spiders, some plant matter, and even small vertebrates. They have a high tolerance for toxins and have been recorded consuming scorpions and even venomous snakes. When encountering a predator their standard defensive reaction is to tense up all the muscles on their back to cause their spines to stand erect. They then roll into a ball protecting their limbs and head. If they are harassed further, they will twitch in an attempt to jab spines into the predator and make grunting noises. Their spines are not released into the skin of an attacker. In fact, hedgehogs lose quills during adulthood except for very rarely. Heavy quill loss is usually a warning sign as to the animal’s health.
When four-toed hedgehogs are introduced to a new or particularly strong smell they will sometimes do what is referred to as self-anointing. They create frothy saliva and spread it onto their quills in incredible amounts. It is not really understood why they do this, but it is thought to be a defensive action. Hedgehogs have been known to self-anoint with poisonous toads.
This species tends to prefer temperatures between 75 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (24 and 30 Â°C). When it is hotter than that they tend to find shelter in a burrow and go into a state of hibernation, or when it’s colder they go into a state of hibernation. They don’t do so on a regular schedule, only when the conditions make it necessary to conserve energy.
The four-toed hedgehog is one of the most popular species of domesticated hedgehog sold in the exotic pet trade. They are bred extensively for color and temperament and are even displayed in competitive hedgehog shows. Lifespan is typically 4 to 6 years